Column, The Movie Diary

Go, Speed Racer, Go!

By Dom Cioffi

I was driving through town the other day when my son erupted from the backseat, “Dad, look, it’s a Porsche!”

I glanced over to the opposite side of the road just quick enough to catch a bright red sports car rip through the intersection.

“That’s a Boxster, but I’d rather drive a 911 Turbo,” he added. “They’re a lot smoother on the turns.”

I chuckled to myself and then countered, “Since when did you know the handling capabilities of an expensive automobile?”

“Dad, it’s common knowledge,” he replied smugly.

I’m not sure where my son’s interest in multi-wheeled transportation comes from, but it’s been there for as long as I can remember. In fact, his first intelligible word was not “mom” or “dad,” but rather, “car.” Neither my wife nor I have any deep-seated interest in cars outside of being able to get from Point A to Point B comfortably, so the genesis of the allure must be otherworldly.

Initially, my wife and I thought his infatuation with automobiles was adorable. He would get excited at the sight of any large truck, any brightly colored paint job, or any vehicle that was hauling a payload like a boat or RV. But the things that really set him off were sports cars.

Anything low to the ground or with a spoiler on the back sent him into an immediate happy dance. Of course, if we spotted one in a parking lot, I was forced to walk him over so he could inspect every detail. And if the owner happened to be nearby, it wasn’t uncommon for him to climb in to take a closer look.

The best part about his fascination with vehicles was the gifting of Matchbox cars. At a couple dollars a pop, you couldn’t give a more affordable present. And I was admittedly a sucker. Any time I walked into Walmart or Target, I knew that one Matchbox car purchase would get me tons of love an affection later on.

And then every kid’s dream scenario occurred. One day my mother showed up at our house and told me to go into the trunk of her car to retrieve a plastic box that she had discovered in the back of her attic.

I brought it in and placed it on the living room floor. With my son watching intently, I slowly removed the lid to unveil a veritable potpourri of classic Matchbox cars—my entire collection from year’s past.

While I stared in awe, my son became emotionally unglued. I don’t think he was impressed with the classic nature of the cars, but rather was overwhelmed by the sheer number.

He sat there for the next hour and pulled each car out to inspect. As he did, I reminisced about racing certain ones down the accompanying orange plastic track while using others in the sandbox or the driveway. It was a definite walk down Memory Lane for me.

Interestingly, within a short time, the sensible side of me started to wonder whether allowing my son to paw through these possibly valuable collectibles was a good idea. I wondered if some of them could garner a nice price on eBay.

In the end, I resisted the urge to start looking up pricing data and instead simply allowed my son to inherit the entire collection, valuable or not.

Unfortunately, his interest in my dirty, beat up cars waned rather quickly. They were happily replaced by the new monster truck series that Matchbox started offering. With brighter colors and gigantic wheels, my old, dusty collection didn’t stand a chance.

Sometime around this period, Pixar released the first “Cars” animated film (apparently the film producers figured out that my son wasn’t the only kid in the world that had developed a vehicle fetish).

My son rarely sits still, but during that film he was transfixed, and from the moment we left the theater, “Cars” merchandizing ruled our lives. And just when we thought it was starting to wane, “Cars 2” was released.

My son is now 13 years old and far removed from the allure of Matchbox cars. However, when I asked if he wanted to join me for a screening of “Cars 3,” he turned into a 7-year-old all over again.

“Cars 3” revisits all the great characters from the first two films, while adding a couple of interesting new ones. In this film, Lightning McQueen feels his age as a new generation of race cars begins to take over the sport he once dominated.

Check this one out if you’ve got a youngster with a growing intrigue in automobiles. Just be prepared to shell out the money for the branded bed sheets, shower curtains, and lunchboxes once you return home.

A speedy “B” for “Cars 3.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]

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